Jake's CMJ 2014 Days 4: Sharpless, Attic Basement, Mitski, Small Wonder

At the end of the Marathon, Jake stays put

By: Jake Saunders

October 28, 2014

" Silent Barn had my favorite bills of CMJ by far, and none of them were official "

My Friday night was spent primarily at The Silent Barn for the Miscreant and Father/Daughter Records showcase.  I'll add that I spent all of the next day there as well; having spent the most time there than any venue, Silent Barn had my favorite bills of CMJ by far, and none of them were official.  Although I was particularly exhausted that day/night and ended up leaving earlier than I would've liked, I did catch some great acts that I had been meaning to see for a while.  I will say that this was a stacked bill, I'm only going to talk about a few of the bands that really stand out to me.  

I'll start with Brooklyn's Small Wonder, one of the bands off of the emerging DiY collective, The Epoch.  The artists of this collective--for the most part--share a warm, often folk or pop inspired sensibility.   No arrogance involved, these bands are very much doing it themselves and doing a very good job; both Epoch bands that played that night (Chicago's Sharpless was the other, which I'll cover shortly) had an excitement about them and a devoted fan base to back them up.  Small Wonder borders on the anthemic side of things.  Arcade Fire would be an obvious comparison, as the band had a lot of "oohs" that immediately calls the Canadian Rock gods to life.  Henry Crawford's lyrics are open and majestic, rattled with metaphors;  vague images of light and birds and dark bedrooms and basements appear in a very cinematic fashion. Also, he is one smooth performer.  I don't know the guy personally, but it's not hard to tell that he's a seasoned musician, with an obvious passion for his music.  Much love to Small Wonder.

Unfortunately between these sets I missed Flagland, a band I've seen and been blown away by a handful of times.  Definitely the black sheep of the bill, they're a crazy fun punk band, with a really  shout out to their bass player, Nick Dooley, who absolutely shreds:  kudos to great bass players, often overlooked, rock'n'roll need its low end.

Next for me was a band that I'm pretty sure most people at The Barn had never heard of, but were all unanimously impressed by.  That band is called Attic Basement from upstate New York, whose presence seemed a little out of place at first; they all seemed to be reaching middle age, a lot older than the young crowd the Barn usually attracts.  None of that shit should matters in the first place, but it really didn't matter when they started blowing our minds musically.  A really soulful band (pretty similar to Small Wonder in a way), each musician was incredibly skilled on their instrument, the songs were well constructed.  I just remember everyone looking around really surprised by how tight this band was, and the band really seemed to enjoy their performance, making it easier for everyone else to enjoy.

Next was Mitski, another Brooklyn band I'd been meaning to see for a long time.  She played solo acoustic, and even though I was looking forward to hearing the songs with a band as they appear on the new album, this girl rocks my fuckin' world. She packed the room, sing alongs were had, maybe some emotions were stirred.   She killed me on the chorus for her single "First Love/Late Spring": "So please hurry leave me/I can't breath/Please don't say you love me."  It says something to me when I listen to a songwriter who can engrain a song in my head so easily.  I've been listening to her album, it's very very very good.  'nuff said.

Next was Sharpless, also from NYC but currently based in Chicago, another band that I think a lot of people who didn't know about it were surprised by.  What made my head tilt about this band is that they are operating in what we might normally think of as a mainstream, pop punk field, while existing in a very DiY Brooklyn community when they could be headlining Warped Tour.  First of all, it takes balls to make this kind of music, as we normally don't see much of that in BK, but they pull it off so well.  Jack Greenleaf and Montana Levy make a great front-duo, with semi-choreographed moves to go along with the high energy pop lyrics.  Go check this band out, and if you think you're above the pop punk vibes, like I thought I was, think again.

And unfortunately that's when I knew that if I had stayed at The Silent Barn any longer I would have dropped, so I headed home early that evening to pig out on indian food followed by sleep time.  I missed a lot of good acts including Jawbreaker Reunion, Girlpool and one of my personal favorites, Leapling, but I'm sure these guys will be around.